Sony DSC-V3By: Shawn Barnett and Dave Etchells
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Page 3:DesignReview First Posted: 09/09/2004, Updated: 11/30/2004
modification of last year's Sony DSC-V1, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-V3 has become
less retro in appearance, and more utilitarian. While the V1 was sleek and understated,
the V3 could be called gnarly or brawny, with design elements put in place to
both improve grip and allow room for the larger LCD on the back. The V3 can
still be considered portable when compared to its larger cousin, the DSC-F828,
but won't fit well in a shirt or pants pocket by any means. It'll need a camera
bag, though in a pinch it could fit in a large coat pocket (but get a camera
bag for this $700 investment). It is a competent camera for travel and all manner
of travel photography, though more emphasis appears to have been placed on making
the V3 a great photography tool instead of making it particularly compact or
The large, multi-stage lens barrel dominates the front panel of the Sony DSC-V3. Despite this apparent girth, the lens seems almost too small for the camera's overall size, though the large outer ring does offer some protection against impact when the lens is closed. When powered on, the lens extends from the barrel five-eighths of an inch into its operating position. A shutter-like lens cover automatically slides open and closed, eliminating the need for a separate lens cap (be aware, however, that a camera case is still advised, because these shutters are easily opened with slight finger pressure, and pointy objects could damage the lens). Filter threads inside the lip of the outer lens barrel accommodate an adapter that makes available a range of Sony accessory lenses, which extend the camera's zoom capabilities at each end of its focal length range, opening it up as wide as 24mm or as long as 231mm. Aside from the lens, the optical viewfinder window, Holographic AF emitter, and self-timer/IR LEDs are on the front of the camera. A large two-finger grip protrudes from the camera front as well, providing a firm hold for your right hand.
The right panel of the Sony DSC-V3 (as viewed from the rear) is featureless except for one of the eyelets used for attaching a neck or wrist strap. At the bottom of the right panel, the edge of the Memory Stick / battery compartment door is visible.
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-V3's left panel features the other strap attachment eyelet, as well as the "ACC" Sony accessory connection jack, and the connector compartment. A hinged, rigid plastic door covers the connector compartment, where the USB, and A/V Out connector jacks are located.
The camera's top panel is unusual, though simple. The hot shoe is surrounded by brushed metal with a black anodized finish. In front of that is the twist-up flash and to the right are nine holes for the microphone. Down the "ramp" on the second level are the Power and NightFraming/NightShot buttons, both of them large, dome-shaped buttons. The large Mode dial is prominent on the camera, and has to be one of the finer design elements of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-V3. It slides smoothly yet clicks positively, contributing to the very high-quality "feel" of the camera. Just left of the dial is a light pipe that illuminates green from down inside the camera, indicating the camera's on status. Out front on the grip is a very nice looking shutter button, angled just right. Matching the color, but not the texture of the other accents, I'd call it a light gunmetal color. From here you can also see the Command dial, located just below and behind the mode dial. The Command dial turns left and right and also presses in to switch modes in some control applications.
The remaining camera controls are located on the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-V3's rear panel, along with the big 2.5 inch LCD monitor and optical viewfinder eyepiece. Three LEDs are aligned along the right side of the eyepiece, and light or blink to indicate camera status (such as autofocus trouble, charging flash, memory card access, etc.) On the left side of the eyepiece are the AE Lock, Exposure Compensation Focus, and Frame buttons, just above the LCD monitor. A Zoom rocker button is in the top right corner. The Display button is beneath the lower right corner of the eyepiece. Just above that is the recessed CF/Memory Stick switch and above right of that is the Command Dial. The Five-way controller is just right of the LCD. The arrow keys perform multiple functions, becoming increasingly traditional across camera brands: namely Flash mode, Macro mode, Self-timer, and an unusual "Review" button, which brings up the last image captured, but does not allow you to scroll through the others. The Menu and Image Size / Erase buttons are at the bottom of the panel, right above the DC in door.
The bottom panel of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-V3 is nice and flat, with an all-metal tripod mount just off-center, the camera's speaker, and the Memory Stick / CF / battery compartment on the far right. A hinged, plastic door covers the compartment, sliding to the right before opening. One of my few complaints about the V3 is that the Memory Stick / battery compartment is too close to the tripod mount to allow quick changes without dismounting the camera. (I always notice this, given the amount of studio work I do, and find it particularly important with feature-laden cameras like this one.)